Still reeling under the shock of the fire at the Brahmapuram waste plant which lasted for weeks, the Kerala government has asked local bodies to invoke relevant sections under the Kerala Municipal Act and Panchayat Act for implementing the decentralised waste management rules. As per this, not having such a system at home or place of business is set to become a grave offence. The order, issued earlier this week, says that owners of houses having a floor area of above 100 sqm and businesses that lack waste management mechanisms, will face one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000. The Local Self Government Department (LSGD) has also asked the local bodies to suspend licences of hotels, clubs, marriage halls, malls and shops that lack facilities to treat waste at the source.
The state government has decided to go in for stricter implementation of waste management rules after the Kerala High Court, while taking up the issue of the Brahmapuram fire, directed the Local Self Government Department to use all the available powers. The HC also asked the department to file a report explaining all measures it has taken to address the issue of solid waste management before April 11.
However, the LSGD’s order has not gone down well, with some local bodies feeling the order is impractical. They allege that the government is going for knee-jerk reactions to look clean before the HC and warn that hasty actions will only backfire. They also want a longer deadline before enforcing the rules, as there is insufficient preparedness on the ground. The LSGD insists it is forced to enforce the laws strictly as local bodies are not making waste management a key priority despite repeated directives.
While the state needs some drastic measures to address the looming threat of yet another fire in the waste plants, hastily enforcing rules without enough preparedness will not yield the desired results. Rather, there is a possibility of them backfiring. The government must perfect the new practices before going for stringent enforcement. The local bodies, too, must think of reducing the quantity of waste by disposing of it at the source itself—considered a ‘good practice’ worldwide. As the high court had rightly observed, Kerala is blessed with countless gifts from nature, and all are responsible for acting as guardians of nature. And for this, everyone should join hands, leaving political differences behind.